Every media session held by the Giants over the last eight months has come on Zoom, which at times allows team executives to have a little bit of fun with more difficult questions. When he spoke to reporters last month, Farhan Zaidi was asked about the team's payroll situation after a season with no fans, with the questioner first warning that his WiFi might be causing audio issues. Zaidi smiled as he started to answer.
"I didn't hear anything after, 'I don't know if you can hear me,'" he said, laughing.
Front office officials generally dislike talking about how much they can or might spend, and that's been ramped up in a year unlike any other. You'll find a few owners out there who have claimed outrageous losses, but for the most part, teams have kept it quiet, hinting at big losses and cuts but not giving much detail.
The Giants have delivered mixed messages with their public moves. In October, they laid off about 50 full-time employees, blaming the losses suffered during the pandemic. But a few weeks later they gave the qualifying offer to Kevin Gausman, guaranteeing $18.9 million to a pitcher who would not have approached that average annual salary had he gone out on the open market.
In the aftermath of that sequence, Zaidi said there have been no demands from ownership to make huge cuts. The marching orders are pretty similar to his previous two offseasons.
"We've had a pretty consistent mandate from ownership to make smart baseball decisions in my two years here and that continues to be the message," he said. "Obviously they signed off on us extending the qualifying offer to Gausman, which puts us in a really good situation going into the rest of the offseason since starting pitching was such a need of ours. To have the qualifying offer framework, to be able to get a short-term deal done that he's happy with, that we're happy with, again it's something we couldn't have done without ownership's support. We don't take that support lightly.
"It also means that we're going to continue to make decisions that make sense for the long-term success of the organization. We'll kind of continue to evaluate those opportunities on a case-by-case basis, but there's no payroll target or limit. Smart baseball decisions can come in many different forms and not strictly financially driven, so that's going to continue to be how we operate."
The Giants have mostly made smart decisions in the last couple of years by avoiding the high end of the market. They have done well on smaller deals for players like Gausman, Drew Smyly and Wilmer Flores, cleaned up on minor league deals for guys like Donovan Solano, and added several contributors -- most notably Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson -- through trades.
They have been disciplined in their spending, non-tendering Kevin Pillar and drawing a line with fan and clubhouse favorites Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Vogt last offseason. The result of that is a payroll that is back in good shape and a year away from being just about a completely blank slate.
The Giants do not seem poised to use up that flexibility this offseason, with Zaidi talking repeatedly of adding complementary pieces. They thus far have not been connected in any way to the top names on the market, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's a desire from the top to limit spending. We'll find out if that's the case in a different way this week.
The Giants have 10 arbitration-eligible players and must make decisions to tender contracts by Wednesday at 5 p.m. The expectation around the game is that there will be a flood of non-tenders as teams try to save money, and the decisions made by Zaidi and Scott Harris will tell outsiders a bit more about what their real spending limits might or might not be this offseason.